Boston Globe Online: Print it!


A dot-com funnels funds to nature

By Robert Braile, Globe Correspondent, 10/10/2000

ith the click of a mouse, ecologically minded Web surfers can help preserve the Amazon rainforest, protect Mexican wildlife, create a Patagonian reserve, or save nature in other ways, thanks to a Dedham dot-com that's giving land conservation a new look.

Not easy enough for you? Then consider this: It won't cost you a dime.

Since its February launch, has raised $35,000 through its ''click-to-donate'' cyber-conservation strategy and saved more than 2,500 acres in this country and abroad. The company hopes to raise more in the future by expanding on its 11 corporate sponsors.

The company has six conservation projects underway around the world, but is close toadding its seventh, and first in New England - conserving a 36,000 acre tract nestled in the Berkshires in Western Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York, whose ecological assets include a rich array of rare and endangered plants.

As conservationists grope for new ways of coming up with the money to save land, facing ever tighter government budgets and sobering limits to such traditional funding sources as direct-mail campaigns and philanthropic gifts, has offered early evidence that the Internet - used in this way - may be an alternative. It may take some getting used to for true-blue conservationists. But it may also be the future.

''People have been very, very generous, and we're really pleased with how well it's gone,'' said Tim Kunin, the company's 45-year-old founder, who said the Web site is getting about 50,000 hits a month, up from only about 50 a day in early February. ''They want to protect natural areas, even ones they'll never visit, and that's wonderful.'' is modeled after the, the world's first click-to-donate site that has drawn a remarkable 88 million visitors since it began 15 months ago, so far donating 10,000 metric tons of food to the world's hungry in 82 countries. But where deals with hunger, deals with nature.

The strategy is simple.'s projects are detailed on its home page. They include the Amazon, Mexico, and Patagonia projects, as well as one to save ancient forests and wildlife corridors in the Pacific Northwest's Cascade Mountains, another to save Canadian wild lands, and yet another to save wilderness across the United States.

Click on a project's ''Donate Land for Free'' icon, and several of the corporate sponsors will be directed to pay enough money to save a specified amount of land - 140 square feet of the Amazon rainforest, for instance. And that's it. There are other options to save even more land, but all based on the same strategy: The clicker pays nothing. The sponsors pay, in exchange for running their corporate ads on the site.

''I don't know if it's the future of land preservation, but it's certainly the future of supporting charitable causes,'' said Lynn Gran, national director of development for The Nature Conservancy of Canada, based in Toronto.

Gran's group has received a modest $2,000 so far from to help protect grizzly bear, elk, and wolf habitat near Montana's Glacier National Park and Alberta's Waterton Lakes, buy an 800-acre tract of ancient forest in southern Ontario near Lake Erie prized for its bird habitat, and preserve the remaining tracts of Manitoba's virgin tall grass prairie, home to hundreds of wildlife species.

''Corporate donations are hard for charities to get, because it's all cause marketing, and there are very few out-and-out philanthropic gifts to charities,'' Gran said. But with, ''corporations win because it's promotion for them, and charities win because it's funding at no cost, and it puts you out there to a bigger audience.''

''Some might see this as blatantly selling yourself to anybody and everybody,'' Gran conceded, reflecting on the involvement of her group with ''But I don't think so. If people come to understand what it is, I don't see a downside to it.''

This story ran on page E05 of the Boston Globe on 10/10/2000.
© Copyright 2000 Globe Newspaper Company.